Rep. Moran Urges Presidential Pardon for John Kiriakou

11.19.14 | 3 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Rep. James P. Moran this week called on President Obama to pardon John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer who was convicted of disclosing the name of an undercover intelligence officer and who is currently serving a prison sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask for a Presidential pardon for John Kiriakou,” said Rep. Moran (D-VA), who is retiring from Congress, in a statement entered in the Congressional Record. “Mr. Kiriakou is an American hero.”

John Kiriakou is a whistleblower, as well. The first American intelligence officer to officially and on-record reveal that the U.S. was in the torture business as a matter of White House policy under President Bush. In confirming what the American media and policymakers were hearing whispered–that waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques were a matter of standard military and intelligence procedures–he helped begin an intense and overdue debate over whether torture violated international law, tarnished our higher American principles and undermined the critical need for reliable, actionable information,” Rep. Moran said.

“And John Kiriakou is a convicted felon, serving a 21/2 year plea bargained sentence in a Pennsylvania federal prison. The charge against him is violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, whereby John answered a question from a U.S. reporter who was duplicitously fronting for lawyers defending Al Qaeda prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and in the process unintentionally confirmed the classified identity of a CIA colleague. A colleague who, by the way, was being erroneously labeled as an enhanced interrogation techniques torturer.”

“The real issue here is the extremely selective prosecution of John and the ongoing efforts to intimidate him from talking about our intelligence community’s misfires,” he said.

“Whatever John’s misdeeds–and he admits that answering that reporter’s questions was ill-advised and naive–he has more than paid for them. After fifteen years of service to his country, the personal risks and costs of a life in the intelligence world, the legal double-standard applied, and now two years in prison John Kiriakou deserves a Presidential pardon so his record can be cleared, just as this country is trying to heal from a dark chapter in its history,” Rep. Moran said.

Rep. Moran’s statement does not constitute an application for a presidential pardon, and Mr. Kiriakou would not normally be eligible for such a pardon until at least 5 years after his impending release from prison.

The Moran statement does, however, represent a rare congressional expression of sympathy for a convicted leaker, and an unusual gesture of respect for an incarcerated American of any kind.

And in fact, there is some precedent for a pardon, even among the small cohort of convicted leakers of classified information.

In January 2001, President Clinton formally pardoned Samuel Loring Morison, the first person to be convicted of unauthorized disclosure of classified information to the press. A copy of the certificate of clemency is here.

“What is remarkable is not the crime,” wrote Sen. Patrick Moynihan in a 1998 letter to the President about the Morison case, “but that he is the only one convicted of an activity which has become a routine aspect of government life: leaking information to the press in order to bring pressure to bear on a policy question.”

“A presidential pardon is a sign of forgiveness,” wrote Justice Department pardon attorney Roger C. Adams at the time. “It does not erase or expunge the record of conviction and does not indicate innocence.”